What’s The Right Credit Card for You? A Guide According To Your Life Stages
You can own a credit card as early as 18 years old, but what’s the best credit card for you at this age and as you get older? How many credit cards can you actually own? We divided the number of credit cards into four life stages as a guide for you to refer to. Read this article to find out.
If you’re always on the lookout for the latest credit card offer, you may wonder at some point: how many credit cards are considered one too many for a person? And is that very card the right one for you?
With many new offers being presented to you through, it may be tempting to apply for all of them to reap all the rewards. But to do that would be crazy and slightly irresponsible – though not an entirely impossible feat.
Take this one man from California, Walter Cavanagh, who owns a total of 1,497 cards, worth $1.7 million (RM7 million), making him the record holder as the person with the most cards.
For Cavanagh, you can’t never have too many cards. (Image source: LA Times via Getty Images)
But owning so many credit cards without understanding the different benefits, and your own financial capacity comes with some huge risks, like garnering a huge debt.
In the United States, the average American has 3.1 credit cards, according to the 2017 Experian State of Credit report. Unfortunately there aren’t similar studies that we can use as a benchmark in Malaysia.
But data from Bank Negara clearly shows that the use of credit cards has increased. Principal credit cards in circulation increased from 7.2 million in January 2015 to 9.1 million in January this year.
But beyond just referencing a benchmark, there are plenty of other factors to consider, because the question of how many cards to own doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer.
Instead, you’ll have to mull over your financial situation like spending habits, income, expenses, and the card features like rewards, annual fees etc. before deciding. Most importantly, one must factor in their life stage — a fresh grad vs. the office top dawg.
So though there’s no set answer on how many credit cards one should have, there are some general guidelines when it comes to applying for credit cards at different stages of one’s life.
Let’s break it down for you.
Life stage: Young adults
Credit cards are useful beyond just paying for your shopping spree!
As a young adult who is scraping by on a college budget, you may sometimes need access to a large sum of cash, but unfortunately not be creditworthy for it (because of the absence of income). Or you could be fresh out of college and are starting your first job, still new to the world of credit and financial literacy.
For many, this is the stage where you experience two polarizing situations: free of financial commitments or stuck with a massive debt over your head.
This is also the stage where many young adults begin to become financially independent. Some others, however, still rely on their parents to chip in for college tuition or with other expenses as part of navigating the real world.
But most importantly, this is the stage where it’s best to build a solid credit profile for when you do eventually take out a loan to get a mortgage or buy a new car.
Bottom line is money is tight and young adults are still learning the ropes with credit, therefore, the safest type of card would be to stick to a supplementary card. This allows holders to learn about credit and slowly build more knowledge about it, all while spending within their means.
One supplementary card would be helpful for college students who need convenient access to cash, especially if they are studying abroad or when travelling.
A supplementary card is an additional card that can be issued under the principal card holder when requested. The principal holder will shoulder the responsibility of payments and must assign the card to a family member, either a parent, a spouse or children aged 18 and above.
Unlike the typical credit card, a supplementary cardholder does not need to go through the stringent process of requirements, like an age minimum, profession or salary, to own a credit card because the supplementary card spending will be billed to the principal’s bill for payment.
However, the benefits and annual fees of a supplementary card are typically limited, and differ from the principal card.
On top of getting cash, sometimes a supplementary card also comes with travel and medical insurance, emergency assistance, as well as other benefits accessible only by credit card.
If you’re a fresh grad just venturing out into the working world, getting your own principal card may not be a bad idea either as it can build your credit and can also help you get used to a credit card.
Some cards that we can recommend include the Citi Simplicity+ Card as it comes with zero annual fee and a minimum entry fee of an income of RM2,000 per month, suitable for those who are just entering the job market. But what makes it stand out is the cool gift if you apply through us. For a full list of cards with zero annual fees, click here.
The Lazada Citi Platinum Card is also a good choice because of its cool partner benefits like up to RM500 off selected beauty products every month at Lazada, 8% off tours and sightseeing at Klook and a 30 minutes of complimentary Thai massage at Healthland. It requires a minimum annual income of only RM2,000 per month, and has a relatively cheap annual fee of RM100.
Maybank 2 Gold Card is another good option because of its lifetime fee waiver for principal and supplementary cards and the ‘treatpoints’ or rewards for spending on education institutions, insurance providers, and utilities.
Other good options are the CIMB e-credit card and the Maybank Grab Mastercard Platinum Credit Card for their low entry fees and great rewards. Plus, they’re made for digitally-savvy users who spend through apps – and we know that totally fits you!
Life stage: Young families or in your early to mid-30s
Families who welcome another small one to the family will need to commit more finances into the family fund. Make the most of it by taking advantage of credit card benefits.
At this stage, you’re either just learning to juggle multiple financial commitments, like a mortgage, child care and multiple insurance, or have been doing so for a few years.
Your financial obligations are progressively increasing with the addition of new members or a huge change in lifestyle, eg. a new house, car etc. The circumstances of this stage sorta forces you to learn to stretch your Ringgit to ensure you can squeeze the most out of every Ringgit you spend.
Some may rely on credit to get through the month. A credit card may help reduce some fiscal burden through its cash back and rewards when making big purchases or when settling large expenses.
Many may also start planning for their child’s future, and getting a credit card that makes automatic deposits to a savings account would not only come in handy, but also help stay you on track of achieving a financial goal.
At this stage, you could afford to mix and match between rewards and cashback cards. Though we would recommend sticking to a maximum of 2 cards.
Applying for cards with great rewards and cashback will be extremely helpful for those in this stage because of how you could stretch your Ringgit by taking advantage of the benefits to neutralize if not complement the different financial obligations that you might have racked up at this point.
A good cashback card would be Citi Cash Back Platinum Card which offers 10% cashback for dining, grocery, petrol and Grab spend. Other great benefits that come with the card include exclusive discounts for Citibank customers of up to 50% in Malaysia, affordable instalments with zero processing fees for purchases at any merchant RM50 and above, and convert bills into monthly instalments, among other benefits.If you’re interested to know the full list of benefits, click here.
Our top best deal card that we highly recommended card is the Standard Chartered JustOne Platinum Mastercard®, which comes with a host of benefits like automatic balance conversion, exclusive offers for holders at over 4000 outlets in Malaysia and across Asia, ease of using the card via Samsung Pay, convert purchases RM500 and above into installment plans at low interest rates, balance transfer at low fixed interest rate of 5.99%, among other great benefits that can be checked here.
Life stage: Height of your career (early 40 to 50)
When you’re more established in your career, credit cards would be more useful beyond just wanting to stretch your Ringgit. This is the stage where you get to fully utilize all your benefits.
With a lot of hard work and luck, you might have finally secured that beautiful corner office.
For many, this is where you’re reaching your prime earning years – and credit cards, when used correctly and smartly, can actually help you make the most of them.
This is the stage where you’ll probably be the busiest you’ve ever been – closing off some serious business deals or finding yourself on the road more than ever for work. Additionally, you are more likely to have a clearer sense of your finances (we hope!).
This may also be the stage where you are earning enough, if not more, consistently to actually take that dream holiday. These are great opportunities to take advantage of with the use of credit cards.
Having around 3-4 cards wouldn’t be too bad of an idea as you would have the financial capacity to manage your finances and you could take up cards with more annual fees in exchange with greater benefits.
Though COVID-19 has hampered any opportunities to travel abroad in the near future, it won’t harm to plan ahead of time.
We recommend Standard Chartered WorldMiles World Mastercard® and Citi PremierMiles Mastercard as both come with attractive air miles rewards and you get cool free gifts when you apply for it through our website. Click here to find out more.
This is the stage where you may want to explore the world or try new more luxurious hobbies. So getting a card with good air miles and rewards makes the most sense.
The Citi Rewards Mastercard comes with benefits like 24/7 worldwide concierge, VIP privileges at luxury hotels, and exclusive golf privileges, relevant to the retiree who is travelling or looking for an activity to fill in their spare time. As our health declines with age, this card also comes with healthcare privileges like 20% off executive screening packages and 15% off walk-in hospital room rates.
If you’re looking for cards with high balance transfer rates, take a look at one of the Citi cards, either the Citi Cash Back Platinum Card, Citi PremierMiles Mastercard, Citi Rewards Mastercard, or the Citi Simplicity+ Card as all come with a balance transfer rate of 10%. Another card with a good balance transfer rate of 7% is the HSBC Amanah MPower Visa Platinum Credit Card-i. This card also comes with good cashback and Islamic benefits.
But hold up. Before you do, it’s important to understand what is a balance transfer and if it’s for you. A balance transfer is an effective way to save money and reduce your credit card debt because it transfers high-interest debt from one or more credit cards to another card with a lower interest rate.
Clearing the debt off one card with another credit card seems like a crazy idea but it works. Another huge advantage to this is you can take advantage of a lower interest rate.
Plus, some banks even offer a 0% interest rate if you can pay off your debt within a short amount of time (e.g. 6-12 months)! But other terms may apply depending on the card issuer (e.g. paying a one-time fee of 3% on the balance transfer amount).
Life stage: Retirement
Retirees tend to spend more time for themselves and pursuing new hobbies.
The so-called golden years, the final jigsaw to the puzzle stage, or the final countdown – call it whatever you like, this stage gets you closer to your final stage of life and really, the moment that many of us are building towards.
This is the stage where you get to focus completely on your own well-being after years of hustling and burning the midnight oil. If you’re lucky, you should also be completely free of debt.
You might finally have time to finally pursue a hobby that you really wanted to take up or that months-long trip around the world. Some would even consider starting that quaint cafe or bookstore that they’ve always wanted. But understandably not everyone could end up having a great life post retirement or at least the lifestyle they had dreamed of.
Unfortunately retirees are usually not allowed to apply for a credit card unless he or she continues to run a business. What more, many of the attractive cards would exclude retirees, not because of the age, but because of their higher risk.
If you’re looking for a card for your retired parents, getting them a supplementary card would be the best recommendation as they get access to additional cash, and some perks, but wouldn’t have to be responsible for the payment. Though some supplementary cards share some similar perks and privileges as the principal card, not all do. As a retiree, it doesn’t mean the expenses stop rolling.
Without proof of income, applying for a credit card may be a challenge as not having EPF statements may make it harder for the bank to approve your card.
How many credit cards can I have in Malaysia?
From what we’ve explained above, there’s no set answer to this question. A person can have as many cards as their heart desires. However, getting a card comes with a new responsibility, paying off your debts and balance before its due. Not doing so comes with the risk of accumulating high debt.
So it’s really up to you, but we hope you take our points into account.
Is it good to have multiple credit cards?
We suggest you spin the question and consider this instead – how does it affect your credit score? Because having a good credit score is an essential component of your overall financial health.
The key takeaway to remember here is that having multiple credit cards won’t necessarily hurt a person’s credit score, because in some cases, it might do the opposite. But undeniably, if you carry more cards than you can handle or use them irresponsibly, your score could drop because of the debt you’ll accumulate.
If you need to understand credit score better, we recommend checking our piece here. Some other tips we remember if you have multiple cards is to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30% and keep track of payments.
Pros and cons of having multiple credit cards
Having multiple credit cards could be good for your credit score but it could also be damaging to it because every time you open a new line of credit your credit score takes a small hit. If you really want to, just make sure not to open two accounts within a short period of time.
While having one card is sufficient, having a backup card could come in handy, if you’re traveling or if your card gets stolen.
So ideally, everyone should have one card and another backup. To avoid accumulating big debts, practice more self-control.
Our take: It’s okay to have more than one card, but use with caution
All in all, we really don’t see any issue with having more than one card, especially when you hit the later stages of your life, 30s onwards.
As long as you know how to manage your debts and make your payments on time, having multiple cards could be beneficial.